Joseph Robert Mitchell, JrSecond Lieutenant
M CO, 3RD BN, 3RD MARINES, 3RD MARDIV
United States Marine Corps
23 August 1942 - 30 April 1967
Alexander City, Alabama
Panel 18E Line 125
The database page for Joseph Robert Mitchell, Jr
Placed by a researcher,
Alexander City, Al
I was the platoon sergeant's radio man. Unlike some others that day, Lt. Mitchell was right there in the thick of it with his men. He never backed down. I was one of the men who tried to carry him off the hill after he was wounded and before he died. He was unconscious. Four of us had just started to pick him up when another mortar shell landed very close to us, killing Lt. Mitchell and two of the Marines carrying him and wounding me and the other Marine who was carrying him.
From a fellow Marine,
A Note from The Virtual WallThe famous "Hill Fights" around Khe Sanh began in early 1967 and continued through the spring before dying back. Overall, they formed a prelude to the equally famous seige of Khe Sanh.
In late April 1967 elements of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, and 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, were directed to assault and take Hill 881 South, one of three peaks which lay just northwest of the Khe Sanh Combat Base. That assault became one of the bitterest fights in the Vietnam War.
The obituary above says Hill 881 South was "a strategic point against the Viet Cong", but that's not quite correct. Hill 881 South was defended by a full battalion from the 18th Regiment of the North Vietnamese Army's battle-tested 325C Division. The NVA had turned the twin peaks of Hills 881 South into a veritable fortress and were prepared to stand their ground.
Shortly before 0800 30 April Mike Company 3/3 started up the hill with orders to establish a defensive perimeter in the saddle between 881 South's twin peaks and then sweep the peaks themselves. Kilo Company 3/9 was to follow Mike 3/3 and take up positions in the saddle from whence they could support the assault on either or both of the two peaks. Mike 3/3's order of march was in column of platoons moving up the only available trail.
By 0930 2ndLt Billy Crews' 1st Plt, M/3/3, had reached the saddle and begun to settle in. 2ndLt Joseph Mitchell's 2nd Plt had echeloned left in order to move toward the eastern peak, and 2ndLt Norman Houser's 3rd Plt was to echelon right and assault the western knob. The saddle itself was not jungled but rather covered in tall grass and small shrubs with isolated stands of trees. Until then there had been intermittent enemy fire, but nothing serious. That changed at 0945, when all hell broke loose as the entrenched NVA on the two peaks opened up on the Marines in the saddle.
Mitchell's 2nd Platoon was about 100 meters east of the 1st Platoon position when the NVA unloaded. He maneuvered forward in an effort to flank the NVA positions which were firing on 1st Plt - and was allowed to work his platoon into an ambush. 2nd Platoon was trapped, unable to move forward or to withdraw. At this point 2ndLt Mitchell was killed and his radioman severely wounded by a mortar round, and SSgt T. L. Meier took command of 2nd Platoon.
Kilo 3/9's arrival at the saddle didn't help; they had been in contact throughout their movement up the last third of the hill and arrived in small groups rather than in platoon formation. Never the less, Kilo's arrival did two things: it increased the firepower available against the NVA and it provided men to assist the wounded to the rear. Under cover of continuous artillery fire on the two knobs and 881 South's reverse slope, the Marines began a fighting withdrawal. The battle continued through much of the afternoon, characterized by Marines under heavy fire scouring the saddle area and forward face of 881 South for their dead and wounded. By 1830 the withdrawal was complete - there were no living Marines on Hill 881 South, and only two Marine dead - all the others had been brought out by their comrades.
The 30 April assault on Hill 881 South was as bloody as any battle in Marine history. Mike 3/3 started up the hill with 161 men; at day's end, 27 of them were dead and 54 wounded. Kilo 3/9 was in somewhat better shape; they lost 14 men killed in action and several dozen wounded.
Top of Page|
With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009